It is not uncommon for me to receive a call from an adult child concerned about a parent’s decreasing ability to care for him or herself. Circumstances often require assistance the child does not have the ability to provide.
Without sufficient assistance, bad things can happen. It only takes an instant for an aging parent to fall. One third of seniors will fall each year (longtermcare.gov). Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for seniors, and often lead to a new series of health issues. By age 75, a fall is four times more likely to result in admittance to a skilled nursing facility.
Sometimes the concern is not simply about the diminishing physical abilities. Cognitive abilities can also decrease. In severe cases, this may result in Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
Regardless, diminishing abilities can be terribly trying for the parent, who in some cases, may not be willing to accept the ever increasing limitations. The stress for both the parent and the child can even affect the family relationship.
I am usually asked “what should I do?” The answer usually starts with an honest, objective determination of the parent’s abilities and limitations. In some cases, only a little assistance is necessary. In other extreme circumstances, the parent may no longer be capable of meeting his or her own basic needs, or even making basic decisions.
Even if awkward, it is important to carefully consider an aged parent’s circumstances. I have seen well-meaning children shocked to find out their mother was malnourished or severely dehydrated. They were not at all ignoring her. They just didn’t realize she was not taking care of herself. Fortunately, the issue was corrected before it became too serious.
Although the answers are not always easy, there are ways to assist parents in need. Next column I will explain different tools available to assist aging parents.
© 2017 Steven J Wright